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How a Candidate Can More Effectively Use a Recruiter

April 30th, 2013

When you receive a phone call from a recruiter, how do you react? Most technical professionals in the Tri-State region (NY/NJ/CT) have had some sort of interaction with a staffing agency or recruiter so unlike other areas in the country, the New York area workforce may be more aware or experienced with staffing agencies.  However, that may not necessarily be a good thing. In a market that is super saturated with staffing agencies as well as corporate recruiters, I have witnessed a trend that is morphing towards an impersonal; email based “What do you have” type of a relationship. With that said, in the IT consulting arena, there are a few variables that are usually the strongest influencers on someone’s decision making process (length of contract, hourly rate, and client/scope of project).  In this manner a transactional relationship may be more appropriate.  However, let’s discuss why it is a waste of both the candidate and recruiters time to work in this manner when it comes to permanent employment.

What I have found is that most candidates are using compensation, title, location, work/life balance and many other similar variables to initially screen out or screen in opportunities that they will want to investigate. Although this practice makes sense, what I have seen is that a candidate must slow down and understand that an opportunity for employment should be analyzed for the opportunity first, followed by a prioritized list of decision making variables. This “priority list” may differ from one candidate to the next but the point is, candidates are judging potential opportunities using the wrong variables.

Recently, I ran an exclusive search for a client and recruited a very strong candidate for the position. The candidate went through the process and was good enough to get an offer from the company. When it came time to discuss compensation, the candidate’s demands were unrealistic. The original reason that the candidate decided to look for a new opportunity stemmed from his opinion that he was underpaid and undervalued in his current role.  However, his current employer has a very attractive benefits package which includes free food and 100% paid medical benefits.  He lived just a few miles from the office and he had made a lot of friends at the company.  So, in the candidates mind, he was relatively happy with his current employer, but he was seeking more. The client began to discuss an offer and the numbers are as follows: The offer would equal a 15% increase on the candidate’s current base salary and represent a 28.5% increase in total compensation (base + bonus). The candidate stuck to his guns even after numerous hours of trying to turn him/close him. He wanted an increase on his base of 31.2% which would result in an increase of 42.8% on total compensation.  The point is not to get tangled up in the numbers here but that the numbers stood in the way of his ability to analyze the opportunity. What I mean by the opportunity in this context can be defined simply as: a chance for progress or advancement. This is general and the argument can be made that an increase in compensation will satisfy this definition for advancement. But let’s look at the overall opportunity. The compensation is a peripheral variable, a mere component of the opportunity, although an important one. The candidate was all about compensation and although we spoke for hours trying to explain that the opportunity would provide him with a path to increase his expert power in his particular field of technology, he did not have the ability to think beyond the numbers. The practice of organic talent development by the client (which he was in agreement) would expose him to much more then he was being provided at his current employer and allow him to build the experience and credentials to command the type of compensation he requires in a matter of a year or two.

So to summarize, this candidate made a mistake by taking a short sighted view and not evaluating the opportunity correctly: big picture thinking of what this position could do for his career and as a result his compensation. The client is one of the best in their industry and the owner of the company is a savvy experienced professional.  He knows when a candidate like this one is a rising super star and he understands how to put a valuation on talent in terms of compensation. He and I were both perplexed as to the candidate’s inability to think about the opportunity and not get handcuffed by supporting variables.

To conclude, about two weeks after I told the candidate that the offer was not going to be what he wanted and advised the client to pursue a different candidate, this candidate called back asking what he could do to potentially re-engage. Unfortunately for him, the position had been filled.

The takeaway is this: Yes, supporting variables are important and should carry weight in the decision making process, but I have witnessed candidates make incorrect assessments of a potential opportunity because of supporting variables. This ties in with how to more effectively use a recruiter because the majority of the time, the candidate makes a decision based on supporting variables on the initial call from a recruiter.

My advice is simple: Screen out opportunities that do not match what it is you are seeking (i.e.: if you make a base of 200K, you most likely will not want to interview for a role paying 100K). Eliminate variables that you can determine will not help you advance. With that said, I cannot stress how many times I had to convince a candidate to just investigate an opportunity that they may not have been jumping up and down for, and after the candidate left the interview, they were totally excited and interested in the role. Keep in mind the 80/20 rule which holds true for the staffing industry as well: 20% of recruiters are good at what they do and account for 80% of the successful results. Candidates should ascertain how good a recruiter is and then keep that in mind when investigating the information to determine their interest level in interviewing for a position. Most recruiters will not have the proper information but maybe they do have a great opportunity to present. However, you may never have a chance at interviewing because you didn’t give the recruiter a chance (you only respond via email and asked for things like job descriptions, salary, etc.). Likewise, when good recruiters call, listen to the opportunity that they present and analyze the entire opportunity and not just the supporting variables, they may mean very little in advancing your career.



Josh Sofer

Director of Business Development

Parallel HR Solutions, Inc.




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  1. Well said by Josh, don’t run behind mirages rather analyze & walk ahead.. Great Blog Josh keep it up..

    Comment by Mahesh Gunjal on May 10, 2013 at 2:59 pm

  2. Awesome, very helpfull !

    Comment by Soham Dindorkar on August 14, 2013 at 12:21 pm

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